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Why I love to grocery shop

April 23, 2010

I couldn’t sleep last night so at 4am, I decided to make my grocery list. I waited until 6am (when the coffeeshop opens) and left the house. I finished my grocery shopping by 7am this morning.

Let me tell you how I grocery shop. I promise this post will be more interesting than it sounds. Truthfully, I LOVE to grocery shop. I’ve got the whole thing down to a science.  You know how everyone tells you to plan your meals in advance? I totally didn’t believe them for a long time. And then I started planning my meals in advance. Not only did I save lots of time, energy, and effort, we started eating better AND saving money. Total win-win, right?

Joe and I divide the days up for cooking duties. He’ll usually cook Mondays and Tuesdays because I’m worn out those days from the 9 hours on my feet at the smelly coffeeshop. The rest of the week’s cooking duties are usually mine, but it ends up fair, don’t worry. I tend to work a couple evenings a week, and we tend to go out or cook together on the weekends, so the cooking chore is split pretty evenly.

We have a dry erase board on the fridge where we list our menu for the week. You can that in the next few days we’ll be having apple sausage pitas with hashbrowns, grilled chicken and veggie kebabs, veggie burger pitas with mac & cheese, pasta with pancetta and escarole, cranberry chicken with couscous, and orange beef teriyaki noodles.

Now, I know the menu seems a little intense, overwhelming, and (hopefully) impressive. But all these recipes are surprisingly simple. I keep a notebook where I paste recipes out of magazines like Cooking Light, Real Simple, and The Food Network. I use bright colored post-it tabs in my 5-Ingredient Cookbook. I peruse Eat Better America weekly.

I try to reuse ingredients throughout the week. Notice two days of pitas. Or I’ll use up any remaining ingredients from the last couple weeks’ menus. We had orange beef teriyaki noodles two weeks ago so I had everything except the beef on hand already.

So, that’s step one. We work together to make a cohesive menu. This is usually done Wednesday nights.

Thursdays are typically my grocery shopping days. I don’t just take the menu and run. Oh no, I’m much more anal about this task than you think. I go back through the recipes and make a list of the items we don’t have, meanwhile taking mental inventory of what we do have. (This is how I get an idea of what to use up next week.) Then I list everything we usually need throughout the week and take inventory: cereal, yogurt, bananas, granola bars, oatmeal, toilet paper, tissues, cat food, etc.  But the fun doesn’t stop there.

I’m a coupon clipper to the max. I keep a small accordian file of the coupons I clip over the course of the week. They are organized by categories like “Side Dishes” and “Dairy” and “Laundry & Cleaning Supplies.” After making my list, I go through each category of coupons and see what I have. Then I mark my list. For example, if I need cereal and I have a coupon for $1.00 off two boxes of Cheerios, I’ll mark a big “C” for coupon next to “cereal” on my grocery list. Once in the cereal aisle, I pull out my accordian file and see exactly what the coupon is for.

I’ve seen my grocery bill decrease an average of $100+ a month using this method. I’ve seen my health improve and I even think I’ve lost some weight. Additionally, I rarely go to the grocery store more than once a week.

The weird thing is, nothing else in my life is as organized as my grocery shopping method. There’s something so rewarding about being so meticulous about cooking, health, and finances all at the same time. I feel like patting myself on the back after all the new groceries are put away each week!

12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2010 9:45 am

    I hate grocery shopping, but I love coupon clipping! In trying to overcome my dislike for the “sport”, I recently purchased a coupon organizer from the Organized Shopper ( so I’m hoping that will help build my desire to go into the store. I wish I had the outlook on it that you do! I’m sure it would be better for my health and my wallet!!

  2. April 23, 2010 9:45 am

    There’s something soothing about grocery shopping…sometimes.

    I plan the menu on Saturdays and do my shopping on Sundays – which is honestly, the stupidest idea I’ve ever had. Sundays for grocery shopping is hell on earth, and I feel like I need to rethink my methods.

    I might be taking a page out of your book very soon – because last weekend, after having to walk around the ENTIRE PERIMETER of the produce section to get out, because EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER felt it was appropriate to have conversations in the middle of ALL AVAILABLE AISLES, I got pretty fed up.

  3. April 23, 2010 10:20 am

    I wish I could be organzied about grocery shopping. I really need to get better about plannign and such, but I’m not.

  4. April 23, 2010 1:33 pm

    I looooove grocery shopping! Something about it makes me feel so adult! And since January we’ve been consistently meal planning, I made myself a one page document for each week, that has the grocery list attached, separated by Meat/Poultry, Produce/Dairy, and Misc. It helps finding stuff in the store a lot quicker. We also both think we’ve lost weight since doing this, especially Dave!! I also have a binder where I keep all of the recipes I’ve printed out/torn from magazines (I get Real Simple, and Rachael Ray mag), and the ones that we’ve used and liked make it into plastic sleeves. (I = OCD). I also LOVE cookbooks – I just ordered the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook today!

    P.S. what 5 ingredient cookbook do you use? I’ve been looking for a good one!

  5. April 23, 2010 8:22 pm

    Planning my weekly menus has changed my life.

    I started doing it a few months ago, and grocery shopping has become so… lovely. I no longer wander aimlessly around the store wondering what to eat, or randomly pick up things I don’t need.

    I’m not a coupon clipper though, I should definitely start!

  6. April 24, 2010 12:26 pm

    Dude, Renee. This is awesome. I’ve been really burnt out lately with cooking and grocery shopping. I find myself searching for a recipe at 7:30 PM when I’m already about to chew my hand off only to find that I have red potatoes and edamame to work with. I’ve known for a couple weeks now that I needed a set grocery day and a set menu for the week. I’m going to start doing this. Right now. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. April 24, 2010 3:45 pm

    Look at you, girl! WOW!

    We’ve been meal planning since I have been here, and it has actually worked surprisingly well. As long as we go to the grocery store once a week. We haven’t been in almost two now, and we’re barely scraping by with stuff. But we ARE eating. 😉

    I need to start clipping coupons pronto. Do you find it makes a dint in the bill?

  8. April 25, 2010 8:07 am

    I can’t stand shopping of ANY kind, but if I really need to go… it’s during the EARLY morning hours. When the only people there are night owls, and the stockers!

    Planning meals in advance would be good if I actually cooked. I’m domestically challenged!

  9. April 25, 2010 2:40 pm

    I need to get on that coupon clipping–thanks for the tips. I always have the best of intentions with them, but they get lost or expire before I remember to use them.

    Also, when I visit another place, the first thing I want to do is go to the grocery store. No joke. And…it may be a little pathetic to admit this, but one of the reasons I was so excited to move here was because of Trader Joe’s.

  10. April 25, 2010 8:20 pm

    Due to lack of car, I grocery shop every weekend and usually on Saturdays, when it’s insane. But I don’t mind. I am really good about going in with a list and sticking to it. I know people who hate grocery shopping but I like it, as long as I’m organized, otherwise I’m all over the place.

  11. April 26, 2010 7:23 am

    That is amazing Renee! I would love to be such an organized, coupon-clipping shopper like you. I just never feel success at the whole coupon clipping thing and I then I feel like just going and getting it done. But the saving must feel great. That is my goal one day!

  12. April 30, 2010 5:55 pm


    But, I am definitely not always as organized as you. I have a drawful of coupons that expire before I use them.

    My method is mostly to go to Trader Joe’s and get lots of food that we’ll eat. I cook pretty much the same six or so meals – but since we’re both pretty busy and not home for dinner every night, we end up eating a lot of fruit and cereal. 🙂 It’s just a phase of our life, but it’s hard because I LOVE cooking.

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